icola Andreatta grew up in the watchmaking world. The first time he went to the Basel fair with his father, a watch subcontractor and head of Timeo SA, he was only 16 years old. He began his watchmaking career in Asia, where he worked for several brands. In 2003 he took over the family business and simultaneously launched his own brand, N.O.A Watches (for “None Of the Above”). However, the financial crisis of 2008 put the brakes on this entrepreneurial venture. He contacted several companies, looking for someone to fund the relaunch of his brand. One of them, Tiffany & Co., declined to invest but offered him an alternative solution: become Vice President and General Manager of its watchmaking division, Tiffany & Co Swiss Watches SAGL. This chapter lasted five years. When he was appointed CEO of Roger Dubuis in December 2018, the company had been without a leader since June of that year.
Roger Dubuis, the man, was one of the watchmakers who gave the traditional watch industry a kick in the pants, much like Franck Muller. These enfants terribles, complication specialists, just wanted to shake things up. They wanted to create ‘modern watchmaking’, just as there is ‘modern art’. They were pioneers, paving the way for the many others who have so brilliantly followed in their footsteps. They reinvented watchmaking codes, pushing complications and design to the limit. They understood that a new, affluent clientele was ready to embrace a different kind of watchmaking. In 1995, Roger Dubuis responded to this need for novelty by co-creating the brand along with the visionary businessman Carlos Dias, who ran the company until 2008.
- Nicola Andreatta, CEO of Roger Dubuis
Recognising the creative and inventive potential of Roger Dubuis, the Richemont group acquired 60% of the company in 2008, buying the remaining shares in 2016. Nearly thirty years after the brand was born, a lot has happened. But the spirit of the brand hasn’t changed. Roger Dubuis still has the ability to astonish. And that is what Nicola Andreatta is banking on, by presenting a concept watch this year that carries three patents. The MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph is powered by the Conical Monovortexsup>TM Tourbillon, a tourbillon that compensates for the effects of gravity on every axis by rotating on a 360° conical trajectory. For this extraordinary split-seconds chronograph, the brand has developed a new oscillating weight, called the Turborotor Cylindrical Oscillating Weight, positioned vertically at 12 o’clock. Roger Dubuis has developed a new material for the 47mm case: a mineral composite fibre (MCF) consisting of 99.95% silica. Manufactured using a sheet moulding process, this material is both extremely strong and lighter than carbon.
Europa Star: Since the company was founded in 1995, Roger Dubuis has been one of the watch brands revolutionising contemporary watchmaking. What direction do you want to take the brand in?
Nicola Andreatta: We’ll continue in the same direction: to the future. Our heritage is the future. We can’t afford to look back. Since the brand’s creation by Roger Dubuis and Carlos Dias, the goal has always been the same: to say and do something different. The brand’s roots lie in watchmaking tradition, but its founders set themselves the goal of helping it to evolve. Innovation, performance and expertise are our approach to carving our place in the world of fine watchmaking. In recent years, we’ve worked hard to refocus our message, to explain what Roger Dubuis stands for and to clarify our values. To me, this is the key to building the brand’s future.
What words do you think best describe Roger Dubuis?
Excess, pleasure, madness and freedom. We try to implement at least two of these words in every model we create. Our goal is to go beyond classic watchmaking. We offer a great alternative. What we’re doing is “Hyper Horology”.
- The case of the new MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph is made with hyper-tech MCF (Mineral Composite Fibre), 13% lighter than carbon and 60% lighter than ceramic. Sitting at 9 o’clock, the Conical Monovortex Tourbillon with its unusual 360° trajectory protects the precision of the watch, no matter the position of the wearer’s wrist. The Turborotor Cylindrical Oscillating Weight at 12 o’clock is positioned vertically, so that the entire force of gravity pushes down on the mechanics like a spinning barrel.
You recently introduced the Monovortexsup>TM Split-Seconds Chronograph. Why a concept watch rather than a marketable model?
A concept watch is a platform to show what Roger Dubuis is capable of. For this model, we filed three different patents and introduced a new material. One of the patents is for our tourbillon, which rotates around a 360° conical trajectory in two minutes. We came up with the idea of having it make a complete revolution around an axis that replicates all the possible positions of the watch, thus compensating for the effects of gravity. This is a different interpretation of the tourbillon.
Will these innovations be featured in marketable models?
Absolutely. Within a few months you’ll see models incorporating these innovations, but I can’t discuss them at the moment.
When you focus on fine watchmaking complications, it’s impossible to manufacture tens of thousands of timepieces a year. How many watches do you produce now?
The best things in life come in very limited quantities. Luxury is about inventing and creating things that are hard to get hold of. Exclusivity has always been an integral part of Roger Dubuis. Because of the complexity of what we do, we cannot mass produce our watches. We don’t give out figures but I can tell you that we produce a few thousand watches. We won’t increase production; in fact, we’ve cut back by removing entry-level watches with simple dials. We’re concentrating on what we do best: products with high added value.
Do you still need physical stores for this?
That’s something we’re exploring. In any case, we need a place to connect with our customers and stay in touch with them. Because of the scarcity of certain brands, the watch industry is increasingly offering experiences that allow brands to connect directly with their customers. Our boutiques are places where we can talk about the brand. After just 28 years in business, we can’t rely on our products alone: we have to continue to promote the brand, sell it, create a community. The best way to do that is to build it around a physical place. At the moment, that place is our stores. We’re getting closer to our customers, whether through digital channels or through what we call ‘big sellers’, who work directly with our end clients. The brand comes to them. But that’s all about existing customers. To recruit new aficionados, we still need stores where they can come to us.
What is the entry price for a Roger Dubuis watch?
Around €55,000. This is the segment where we can add value. We make sure the customer can see how we manufacture our movements, with all the details, including the Geneva Seal. This is impossible if the case is closed. So we focus on skeletonised movements, quality, and all the decoration work. The Geneva Seal was created in 1896 and we still follow the same rules today.
What attracted you to Roger Dubuis?
Throughout my career, joining Roger Dubuis had always been a dream of mine. After so many years in watchmaking, I can’t imagine any other place that would make me as happy. Of course, that has a lot to do with what we do, the world of Roger Dubuis, the adrenaline. I’ve spent a lot of my life doing extreme sports and I feel very connected to the brand, but one of the main reasons is also the special bond my family had with Roger Dubuis. My father, who was a friend of Carlos Dias, manufactured for the brand. When I was young, I remember coming to Geneva to show samples, and leaving disappointed because the quality was never good enough for either of them! I’ve always considered this brand to be the epitome of the art of watchmaking. That’s not just because of all the complications that Roger Dubuis and Carlos Dias created, but because they had the idea of reinventing watchmaking as a whole.
- Excalibur Monobalancier Titanium
Franck Muller was also part of that generation.
Absolutely! My father made cases for Franck Muller too.
You’re launching a new Excalibur model in May. What’s new about it?
This is the fourth evolution of the Excalibur: the Monobalancier in titanium. Our customers asked for a more wearable timepiece, something more “classic”, so to speak. This one is super light, made of titanium. It has huge commercial potential! It is now at our entry price of 55,000 euros.
The Excalibur Blacklight Spin-Stonesup>TM is an oxymoron: it’s understated by day, but it shines like a disco ball at night. What was the purpose behind creating a watch with an innovative look that particularly stands out at night?
It’s been a long time since we’ve played with luminosity and duality. We decided to set the watch with synthetic spinels, because it would have been impossible to cut natural stones that were curved like this. The watch looks completely different in the day, and at night. A bit like people, in fact...